Taqueria Santa Cruz
Being a transport to Portland from Los Angeles, I have been on the hunt for great tacos for quite a while now. Finally, my own personal Mecca has been found in St. Johns. I had tried all of the so-called “Mexican” food hot spots in town with a ton of let downs. Real Mexican food should not be organic or use brown rice and whole grain tortillas. I want tortillas a mano made with lard. I want real meat like lengua and cabeza. I have had one too many tacos made with grass-fed beef or free range chicken in this town. Don’t get me wrong, I’m definitely a supporter of local and sustainable meats that have been humanely raised, just not when it comes to tacos.
Taqueria Santa Cruz in North Portland has everything I could ever ask for. It all starts before you even pass through the door. From the street they proudly display the fifteen or so varieties of tacos, burritos or sopes you can choose from. They also list the abundance of freshly baked breads and pastries available. This not just a taco place after all, it is a bakery and market as well. You enter the door are a step foot into the tienda, or market for all of you that need translation. They have everything from tortilla presses to pinatas. You can buy prayer candles, beers, mexican sodas or even a vast selection of phone cards if you choose. But that’s not what were here to talk about. Keep walking straight to the back. Go through the arch with the sombrero hung above it and enter into the taqueria. You will know you’re where you should be when you spot the giant mural of agave and animals running through the Mexican countryside hanging up on the wall.Here you will find a small counter where you will happen upon a large printed menu hanging on the wall, complete with pictures of all the dishes. On a side note, this is the only type of restaurant where pictures of the food are permitted on the menu. This is when you will realize the tacos are a dollar each. Thats right one dollar per taco. Meats available include carnitas (pork), steak, chicken, cabeza (head), lengua (tongue) and tripas (intestines). Im sure they had a few other varieties, but those werent important to me. I ordered 2 lengua, 2 cabeza. 2 carnitas and 1 tripe. Seven bucks for seven tacos. I decided to take my food home where I could devour it in privacy.I was blown away by how good everything was. The meats were all tender and well seasoned. The tongue was by far the most impressive. Perfectly tender on the inside and crispy from the plancha on the outside. Seriously great tacos. It didn’t stop there though. The tortillas were soft, fresh and money. The tomatillo salsa was perfectly spice with great acidity. The perfect accompaniment to a perfectly done taco.
What can i say, I have finally found great Mexican food in this town. I even went back the next day and indulged again. Real Mexican food made by Real Mexicanos, accept no substitute. A Chicano heaven in a town where hippy and hipsters rules the culinary scene.
Taqueria & Panaderia Santa Cruz
8630 North Lombard Street
Portland, OR 97203-3731